Saturday, September 29, 2007

New CX Bike!

I brought home my new Cannondale X6 Cyclocross bike today! Jeff’s bike is still backordered, but hopefully we’ll have that soon as well. I did a little test ride around the parking lot at the shop.

Then we headed to Little Compton where we parked at The Commons and set out on a loop that passes by a nature area where I could test the bike on some trails. Jeff was riding his mtn bike so he could do the trails too.

Here she is on a little bridge.

The road in to the pond was a little adventurous with lots of loose rocks and downhill as well. I had my hands on the hoods for stability and steering, but as I gathered speed going down the hill I realized that the brakes were really not functioning well! Fortunately I was still able to gradually slow down! They may need some adjustments before I do a lot more with them, or perhaps there is some grease on them that needs to ‘cook off’. I'm not sure yet. At the bottom of the hill, there was a nice grassy area by the pond and some double track into the woods.

In the woods. In case you are wondering, this is a size 47, the smallest one available. I ride a size 50 road bike, but had to go down a size for the 'cross bike with this brand.

This was very nice terrain and I want to go back to do more!

Can you see me? Jeff had a hard time taking pics of me since I kept disappearing behind trees.

The ride back up the hill was a lot easier since I didn’t need to use the brakes!

The only other trouble I had was with one of my new Candy SL pedals. I just could not get clipped into the left one. I could easily catch the front of the cleat on the pedal, but it would not clip in even when I put all my weight onto it. I am going to have to try to break it in on the trainer. Hopefully I can make it behave!

The cross bike feels very different from my road bike and mtn bike. It will take some more rides to get really confident on off road terrain, but it is very comfortable to sit on and is a smooth ride on those cushy tires. I am going to like the smooth, but fast ride over our bumpy roads around here especially in the cold weather (bumps always feel worse when I'm freezing!). I am using the stock saddle for now which is designed for men. It would definitely be comfortable for a man and isn’t that bad for me, but doesn’t quite line up with my sit bones, so I’ll have to pick another saddle soon.

It was fun to ride right away and we did 17.6 miles in all on the first ride. Hopefully we'll be out test riding Jeff's new bike soon. I let him try mine a little in the woods and I know he's feeling a bit jealous!

9/29/07 Weekly Ride Report

I did four solo rides this week, one club ride and two rides with Jeff (one on my new cx bike!!) for a total of 161.21 miles. I eased off a little on overall mileage from the two weeks previous, but still felt like I got a workout due to the winds that pick up here in the fall.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

9/22/07 Weekly Ride Report

Cooler, dryer weather has arrived to southern New England and I’ve been taking advantage of it with rides everyday this week totaling 201.86 miles.

I keep track of my rides on an Excel spreadsheet, so I can see my progress. Here is a chart of my 2007 weekly mileage to date. It shows a random pattern as I just ride when I can and am not following a training program.

Friday, September 21, 2007

2 Flats in a Week!

Seems like this is just my time of year to get flats. Last year around this time I picked up a roofing nail, 2 large staples (at one go!) and hit half a smashed beer bottle hidden in some leaves! This year, glass has been the culprit, slashing an almost new tire last Saturday and creating a slow, invisible leak today. So tonight I'm off to the bike shop for another set of tires. The Maxxis Zenith Hors Categorie ones I've been using for 7+ months require special ordering, so I'm going to try Bontrager Race X-Lites which the shop owner thinks I'll end up liking better anyway. I'm getting good at fixing flats, but I hope I don't have anymore for awhile!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

2007 Cannondale Optimo Feminine 2 Review

Last Fall, I put slick tires on my hardtail mountain bike and rode on pavement doing as many miles as I could to prove to myself that I needed and would use a proper road bike. I planned to ride at least as many miles as dollars I would spend and I managed to do even better than that!

So, while I was testing myself physically, I had a few months to think about the new bike I would buy and research the brands and components. I went to shops to see bikes and talk with knowledgeable folks, got the bike catalogs and read up on them. Pretty quickly, I decided I didn’t want to get an ‘entry level’ bike as it seemed like most people who got them wanted to upgrade just a year or two later. So, I started looking at the next few steps up and basically it came down to a decision between carbon and aluminum alloy. Although carbon excited me, I liked the practicality of aluminum. I decided that I could get carbon sometime down the road, but my first bike should be aluminum. So that narrowed it down quite a bit. After looking at all the brands in the shops, the Cannondales really stood out aesthetically because of the neat welds at the joints and the graceful hourglass seat stays. Also, many years ago when I was riding a lot on a Sears ‘mountain bike’, my dream was to have a Cannondale sometime.

When I made a decision to go with Cannondale, there was really only one women’s specific design bike that met my requirements, the Optimo Feminine 2. I liked that it is basically the same as the men’s CAAD9 bikes that I had first seen in shops and loved on sight! The feminine bike just has some subtle adjustments to the geometry without sacrificing a racy form. It has a short wheel base, in fact, I have some toe lap. It is very light and responsive while at the same time having great inherent stability. It has the stiff rear triangle that Cannondale is known for. The feeling of power transfer you get to the road makes hill climbing a lot more fun than it could be! You really feel like you are getting somewhere when you put force down into the bike and sometimes it feels like you almost get a push/spring back at you as you start into your next pedal revolution. Whether that’s real or psycho-somatic doesn’t really matter to me as long as it feels good. I was also satisfied with the full Ultegra component group, though I may slowly upgrade to Dura Ace as parts wear and need replacing. However, I really have had no problems with the Ultegra. I went with a double crank as I live in a flat region. The shifters are particularly nice and are ‘short reach’ for women’s smaller hands. The Mavic Ksyrium Elite wheels were a major selling point for me since I like the look of the flat spokes! I added Ultegra clipless pedals just to be in keeping with the rest of the components.

Luckily, I like the stock seat, a Fizik Vitesse. The Elle handlebars have quite deep drops and I wondered at first if I would like them or want to switch to a shorter, more contoured drop like is on my husband’s CAAD8. But after using it some and then tipping the bars forward a little to change the angle very slightly, I am used to the deep drops and appreciate them very much when riding into a headwind along our breezy coastal routes.

My bike has only been to the shop for basic maintenance like tightening cables. I’ve replaced the stock tires once with the same kind, Maxxis Zenith Hors Categorie and like them very much. They are fast, yet stick the corners very securely even on our frost heaved New England pavement. My husband got the same ones for his CAAD8 since he’d seen mine perform so well. However as leaves fall on the bike routes and obscure glass and other sharp objects, we may have to switch to a more puncture resistant tire. I had my first flat last week and the tire was wrecked by a piece of glass.

The two color choices for 2007 were great too. A bright green with a bamboo motif which was pretty, but not exactly me and a Patriot Blue design that I went with.

Though I haven’t raced, this bike certainly could. My goal for the time being has been to increase my speeds and go on faster group rides. The bike has certainly helped me achieve my current level of ability and I highly recommend it. You can see all the specs for this bike here. To get more of a sense for how I'm using it, check out the sidebar for my year to date miles total and some ride stats.

I am very happy with Cannondale and was thrilled to see that they have added to the women’s line for 2008. Just look at this beauty! It is the Six13! In a couple of years, I hope to add a carbon women’s bike to my ‘stable’ and one like this could be in the running. It is great to see more and more women’s specific bikes to choose from!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Oh Yeah!

Take a look at my first 'cross bike!!!

It's the 2008 Cannondale X6, in stock and shipping soon. Jeff's also getting one, but his is back ordered. We'll be totally ready for winter riding!

I basically went with a brand I know when ordering the ‘cross bike and didn’t worry about doing tons of comparison shopping; however, there are a lot of great options, so it was fun to consider them a little. After drooling over frames and build it up yourself components (for example the Chile con Crosso since I love the name!) I started to focus on ‘out of the box’ brands available locally.

Cannondale was an obvious choice as I have good experiences with the brand. I already ride a road bike CAAD9 Optimo frame. The CAAD9 Optimo 'cross bike is equipped with low end components, full Tiagra. I wasn’t very interested in Tiagra, but it has been improved and actually felt pretty good on the bike I tested. Low end components are actually fine when you think about the terrain and conditions I’ll be subjecting it to.

Some of the bikes I considered were a Jake the Snake by Kona, Specialized, Trek XO, Bianchi Axis and Redline Conquest. Ultimately, the only other bikes seriously in the running with the Cannondale were the Fuji Cross Comp and Cross Pro. These had better components than the Cannondale, and were 10 speed, but you don’t get an American made frame. The Cannondales welded joins are just so smooth too. Even so, I was very tempted by the Ultegra/Dura Ace component mix. In fact, right up until I ordered, I thought I was going to get the 2007 Fuji Cross Pro. But, it turned out that was no longer available in the great 2007 color scheme and the new ones just didn’t grab my attention the way the Cannondale frame did.

Well, it wasn’t entirely down to vanity in the end. Besides knowing the brand from having a CAAD9 road frame, I reminded myself why I was buying the bike and made a practical decision without getting starry-eyed over fancy components.

Jeff’s reasoning brought him to the same conclusion that the Cannondales really had no drawbacks for us. We’re getting a good frame that we can always build up with other components in future. The 9 speed cogs will be easy to clean. It should just be an all round fun winter bike.

I’m really looking forward to picking it up. I’ve already chosen some Crank Bros. Candy pedals and have some Nike shoes on hold at the shop.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

9/15/07 Weekly Ride Report

Riding 'The Flattest Century in the East' gave me a real boost this week for a total of 204.52 miles.